After a 7-6 campaign that marked Virginia Tech's least successful season in over 20 years, the pressure is on the Hokies to pick the program back up and restore it to where it was before last season.
Virginia Tech hired three new assistant coaches in January as a step towards getting back, but it will be on the players to control what happens on the field.
In preparation for what will be an important 2013 campaign, we cast our votes for the 13 most important players to a successful season. This includes all aspects of the game, both offensively and defensively, but also special teams, like kicking and return.
Players received 13 points for each first place vote, 12 points for each second place vote, etc. In a case of a tie, the players voted on by more staff members won the tie-breaker. If both players had been voted on by the same number of staff members, the next tie-breaker is which player had the highest vote by a staff member.
We continue our countdown at No. 2 with linebacker Jack Tyler.
Jason Stamm, publisher
The torch for Virginia Tech's leader in the middle has been passed on through the years. Of late, it's been linebackers Xavier Adibi, Cody Grimm and Bruce Taylor.
It might have seemed like a surprise before last season, but after, it's no surprise. It's now Tyler.
The senior-to-be is one of the hardest working players you'll ever come across. The guy just doesn't take plays off. He has a high-octane motor and hits just as hard.
Last season, Tyler, a former walk-on, had 119 tackle, the most in a season by a Hokie since Vince Hall's 128 tackles in 2006. Tyler's 13 tackles for loss also led the team. Plus, he was a first-team coaches' all-ACC selection and second-team selection by the media as well. But that doesn't begin to describe Tyler's importance to Virginia Tech.
Especially with the loss of Taylor and the uncertainty of Tariq Edwards in his return from injury, Tyler is the most important piece in solidifying the middle and keeping the defense up to par. It's no wonder Tyler was chosen to represent the Hokies' defense at Monday's ACC Kickoff and media days.
It's no certainty that Tyler will parlay his success into an NFL draft pick. But Virginia Tech simply needs him to finish what he started last season as a wrecking ball of a defender.
Doug Bowman, senior writer
It is very hard to put together a strong defense with a talented mike linebacker. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster has exactly that in Tyler, who is one of the top tacklers in the country.
Tyler is the best defensive player on the roster right now and needs to play to that level week-in and week-out for the Virginia Tech defense to really meet it's potential.
Barring injury, look for Tyler to put together a very similar season to last season. He's a steady player who relies of fundamentals, technique, and work ethic to be effective. None of those three will change this year, meaning he will be a consistent force in the middle of the Hokies defense.
Mike Stancik, staff writer
While the Virginia Tech quarterback is most crucial part of the success to this team, if you're looking for Foster's leader this season- look no further than Tyler.
"I'm counting on him to be a big-time leader for us and be the face of our defense- so to speak- next fall," Foster said before the Russell Athletic Bowl.
With 119 tackles in 2012, Tyler's first year as a fulltime starter, he proved he's a playmaker. Foster's defense funnels most running plays towards the 'Mike' linebacker, and it's a rare occurrence if the Oakton (Va.) graduate doesn't make the play. The former walk-on is the anchor of the Hokie defense, and it's going to be awfully hard for offenses to create points against a stingy secondary if Tyler performs at a similar level.